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Thursday 7 December 2023 Dublin: 10°C

GP: 'We're seeing lots of family groups and everybody is infected in the house'

Covid-19 testing criteria for close contacts changed last week.

A GP HAS said cases of entire households testing positive for Covid-19 have been rising in the past couple of weeks as positivity rates increase. 

Earlier today, HSE CEO Paul Reid said GPs have been “swamped” with some seeing up to 90% of patients referred for testing receive positive results.

Monaghan GP Illona Duffy said her practice has seen an increase in test referrals since the week before Christmas. 

“We started seeing the levels rise of those presenting to us with symptoms, and then a rise in positivity,” she told

“We have had 39 positives today from over the weekend and since New Year’s Eve, but really, the big thing is that almost half of the tests have come back positive.” 

Duffy said previously, many people would present with symptoms but positivity rates were much lower. 

Nationwide, the positivity rate is at around 20% on average over the past seven days. 

“We’re seeing lots of family groups and everybody is infected in the house, where before we might get one or two of them testing positive or becoming symptomatic after a confirmed case,” Duffy said.

It was confirmed on New Year’s Eve that close contacts of confirmed Covid-19 cases would no longer be advised to get tested due to the widespread level of infection and increased pressure on the testing system. 

This was described as a “temporary measure” and close contacts are still advised to restrict movements for 14 days. 

The Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said this change was made to “support the testing system through this surge”. 

Duffy said she doesn’t think people fully understand the rules for restricting movements as close contacts. 

“People are understanding that if they’re symptomatic, they have to stay away from people.

But some people who are asymptomatic and are close contacts don’t believe they have it, or don’t believe they will get it and also don’t believe they could pass it onto other people. 

Duffy said some have been annoyed they cannot get tested without symptoms. 

“I actually think the negative tests many got gave them false hope and made them more likely to go out of their quarantine.”

She said family and friends “need to pressure people” who are close contacts of a confirmed case to stay at home even if they have no symptoms. 

In terms of any new symptoms presented, Duffy said that from her experience, half of the patients presenting to her practice in recent days “have severe nasal congestion”.

She said these sinusitis type symptoms are important to be aware of but they are not on the official HSE list of symptoms at the moment. 

What to do if you have symptoms 

Currently, anyone who shows symptoms of Covid-19 is referred by a GP for a free test. 

If you show symptoms, the advice is to immediately self-isolate in your room and phone a GP straight away. The GP will decide if you need a Covid-19 test. 

Self-isolating means staying in your room and avoiding all contact with other people, including those you live with. 

Other people in your household need to restrict their movements. 

Common symptoms are:

  • A fever (temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or above)
  • A new cough
  • Shortness of breath or breathing difficulties
  • Loss or change to taste or smell 

Prior to last week, close contacts of confirmed cases were also referred for testing five or six days after the day they were last in contact with the positive case.  

What to do if you are a close contact of a confirmed case 

If you are a close contact of a confirmed case, you need to restrict your movements for 14 days and stay at home even if you do not have any symptoms.

Restricting movement means avoiding social situations with other people and staying at home as much as possible.

You are still allowed to go outside for exercise if you keep a two-metre distance from others.  

If you develop Covid-19 symptoms, move to self-isolation and phone a GP for advice and potential testing referral.  

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